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Causes of Periodontal Disease

Understanding the causes of periodontal disease

Understanding the causes of periodontal disease is important to halt the advancement of gum disease and prevent tooth loss. If treated promptly by a qualified periodontist, the symptoms caused by gingivitis are fully reversible. If left untreated, however, periodontal disease can lead to irreversible tooth shifts, instability and loss. In some cases, bacteria from gingivitis infection can also travel through the bloodstream and into other areas of the body, so it is important to understand the warning signs of gum disease as early as possible.

In many cases, the risk of contracting periodontitis can be lowered through preventive measures; however there are some genetic and environmental factors involved in the onset of the disease.

The following are some of the most common causes of periodontal disease:

Poor dental hygiene

When bacteria and calculus (tartar) are allowed to build up in one’s teeth and gums, the bacterial toxins can cause gingivitis, periodontitis and tooth loss. A healthy oral hygiene routine and balanced diet are a few easy ways to prevent gum disease right from your own home. Regular dental exams, deep cleanings and x-rays combined with proper home care are the best ways to preserve your radiant smile.

Tobacco use

Tobacco use is one of the most common causes in the development and advancement of gum disease. Not only are smokers and tobacco users more likely to suffer from calculus buildup in their teeth, the development of deep pockets in the gingival tissue, and bone loss, but they also typically recover and heal more slowly than non-tobacco users.

Family history

Even those who are non-smokers, have a healthy at-home dental hygiene routine, and visit their dentist regularly can have a genetic predisposition to gum disease. Nearly 30% of the American population has a family history of gum disease, making them six times more likely to develop periodontal disease themselves in the future. Genetic tests can be employed to determine if you are genetically predisposed to gum disease. Knowing the early signs of periodontal disease and intervening early can help keep the oral cavity clean and healthy and prevent tooth loss down the road.

Pregnancy and menopause

Women who experience hormonal changes, such as those who are pregnant or undergoing menopause, are more susceptible to periodontal disease. Because the gum tissue is more sensitive during that time, these women should make dental hygiene, including regular brushing and flossing, a critical part of their daily routine.

Chronic stress and poor diet

Stress and poor nutrition lowers the body’s ability to fight off disease, including bacterial infections such as gingivitis or periodontitis. Due to lower immune system function, individuals who are experiencing extreme stress or malnutrition are more susceptible to periodontal infections and gum disease.

Diabetes and other medical issues

Respiratory disease, heart disease, arthritis and osteoporosis are a few medical conditions that can speed up the progression of gum disease. Diabetes too can intensify the onset of gum disease because of the body’s inability to utilize insulin, making the bacterial infection harder to manage and treat.

Grinding teeth

Constantly clenching or grinding teeth, which is typically caused by misalignment of the teeth, can damage your teeth’s supportive tissue. This additional damage to gingival tissue can accelerate the deterioration of one’s gums during the progression of the disease.


Certain medications, including oral contraceptive pills, heart medicine, anti-depressants and steroids can impact the overall health of one’s teeth and gums. Steroid use can encourage overgrowth in the gums, for example, which makes swelling and bacterial colonization more common in the gum tissue.

Treatment Options for Gum Disease

Periodontists are dentists who specialize in gum disease treatment and dental implant placement. Treatment options for periodontists range from non-surgical cleaning procedures such as scaling and root planing, as well as medicinal treatments such as the prescription of antibiotics and antifungal medications to treat bacterial infections.

When gum disease is not treated early, many individuals experience tooth loss. In this case, periodontists insert tissue grafts to encourage natural tissue regeneration or conduct dental implant surgery to replace missing teeth. Periodontists can also recountour gum tissue to restore aesthetic appeal in someone who has experienced immense gum recession.

Preventing periodontal disease starts with recognizing the causes and symptoms of gum disease and speaking with your dentist to prevent its onset, progression and recurrence.

We are happy to help answer any questions or concerns you have about the causes and treatments of gum disease. Contact us today to set up your appointment!